Federal Emergency Management Agency has set up three disaster recovery centers in Austin and one in East Garfield Park to help the victims of the July 2 floods apply for federal assistance.
According to FEMA, the centers have been set up to help flood victims, whether they are residents or business owners, who are struggling to fill applications or have questions about them. Some of the services include help with uploading documents and learning about ways to make properties more disaster resistant.
The lack of help has been a recurring concern for residents and community organizations who spoke to Austin Weekly News in the wake of the Aug. 15 federal disaster declaration.
Austin residents Roman Morrow and Maricela Delgado, who both had their basements flooded, said they struggled to navigate the online application process, and that some questions were unclear. Morrow gave an example of a question about whether he was sick during the natural disaster, and he wasn’t sure whether it meant whether he was sick when the flood happened or whether he got sick afterwards due to mold. Delgado complained about the lack of Spanish-language resources, at least in Chicago.
FEMA spokesperson Tiana Suber confirmed that each center will have one Spanish-speaking specialist.
During his August ward meeting, Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th), whose ward includes the sections of Austin west of Central Avenue, said that he personally struggled to find the link to the application – which is why he included a direct link on ward social media channels and e-blast.
The disaster relief center for the north half of Austin has been set up in a former T-Mobile store at Washington Square Mall at 4851 W. North Ave., and it is open seven days a week between 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The south Austin disaster center is open inside the Columbus Park fieldhouse at 500 S. Central Ave. It is open from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays. On Labor Day, it will be open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The East Garfield Park disaster center opened on Aug. 31 at Garfield Community Service Center, at 10 S. Kedzie Ave. It has the same hours as the Washington Square Mall Center.
Both centers will be open until Oct. 16, the financial aid application deadline.
No appointment is necessary, and Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant parking spaces are available at both locations. The Washington Square center can be reached by CTA bus routes 54/Cicero and 72/North. The Columbus Park center can be reached via CTA bus routes 85/Central and 126/Jackson.